READ THE SPIRIT: Mending the Line (2022)
June 17, 2023
Director Joshua Caldwell and scriptwriter Stephen Camelio tell a familiar story—that of a wounded veteran needing more than just physical healing—but with a different twist. The healing comes through fly fishing. And what for a while looks like will become a romance turns out to be something else. And amend that “a wounded veteran needing…healing”–there are three wounded persons in this compassionate film, two veterans and a local librarian.
In what amounts to a prologue we see John Colter (Sinqua Walls) in Afghanistan leading his squad on a dangerous recon patrol in terror-infested country. It is the last day of their deployment, so the soldiers complain about their assignment. Colter over-rules them, and so when he is wounded during an ambush and a couple of his men killed as he lies helpless, he is filled with tremendous guilt.
John survives and is sent back to the Sates where he is treated in several rehab centers. Now, at the V.A. Medical Center in Livingston, Montana, his horrible leg wounds, suffered from the I.E.D. are healing, so he is eager to be sent back to his unit. As he will say several times, his comrades are the only “family” he has ever known. V.A. Doctor Burke (Patricia Heaton) is as concerned for his mental healing as much as for his physical. His PTSD is harder to treat than his leg wounds. She informs him that the final decision resides in a panel who will determine if he is fit to return to active duty. She sends him to group therapy, but he angrily walks out when he learns that the leader has never been in combat. He drinks heavily and awakens to nightmares of that day when he lay helpless on the ground while the terrorists executed two of his “brothers.”....
he romantic arc does not develop as expected, and Ike pays a price for his trying to fish at times alone. When Colter visits Ike in the hospital, the mentor says to him, “In the book of every soldier’s life, the military is a chapter. It never leaves you. But (lowering his voice) it’s not, not the whole story.”
Indeed, it is not. Neither for Colter nor, for that matter, for Ike. The younger man has learned that his mentor has a son and grandchild from whom he has been estranged for many years. Colter helps complete Ike’s story, his act of grace contributing to his own healing. At he end of the film we are shown real life veterans casting their rods, members of a group known as Warriors & Quiet Waters. The film’s story might be fictional, but Colter’s situation and the use of fly fishing to bring healing are not.